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On censoring hate speech

Like many, I think Anjem Choudhary gets far too much attention.  I can think of different reasons for wishing he was less visible.

His views are hateful and extreme – why publicise them unnecessarily?

They aren’t shared by most British Muslims – it must be infuriating for them to see him being presented as in any way representative.

Some who can happily condemn Choudhary still have views which could be seen as extreme.  Focusing on Choudhary helps mask this fact.

So I agree that he probably shouldn’t have been invited by the BBC to comment on the murder of Lee Rigby. However this doesn’t mean that I think his views should be censored, or that the BBC should be stopped from hosting him.  I can think of a couple of pieces that I don’t think should have been published  - but I wouldn’t want anyone to have the power to prevent them from being published where they were, much less ban the expression of such views completely.  So I was very wary of Theresa May’s initial response to the Woolwich murder, her suggestion that hate speech should be pre-censored or banned, and think Timothy Garton Ash gets it right here:

What May proposes is impractical, illiberal, short-sighted and counter-productive. It would curb a vital freedom without enhancing our security.

Here’s another strong point:

But now a state regulator is to pre-censor editorial content, at the bidding of an interior minister, in the name of defending public security and fighting terrorism? Where we have seen that before? Egypt. China. Russia. Welcome to the club.

And, as he goes on to say, unless extraordinarily draconian measures are taken, hate speech will still be readily available – and those who propagate it will be able to pose as free speech martyrs.